How Can You Hire for Personality if You Don’t Meet the Candidate?

Today we are pleased to present an excerpt from Dan Schawbel’s book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connections in the Age of Isolation. With recruiting technology rapidly replacing in-person interviews, hiring managers are beginning to miss something very important: the personality of the candidate. Without further ado, here is that excerpt:

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Over the past decade, hiring has changed for the better—and for the worse. But one thing that has remained constant is that when you make the right hiring decisions, you advance your team, your company, and your own career. However, because the pace of business is constantly speeding up and companies are always looking for ways to save money, many have looked to technology to lower the cost of recruiting talent and increase the number of people they can reach.

While these companies tout how much money they’re saving by doing their interviewing by phone or video, they don’t seem to realize that neither of those approaches can ever replace in‑person interviews, in which you actually meet people, see their body language, and observe how they handle themselves. In short, those approaches are missing the critical emotional connections and personality traits that will help you hire the best possible candidate, who will stay with you longer. This is huge. Hiring someone who doesn’t fit with your company’s culture or can’t work with the rest of the team will have a measurable negative impact on your ability to compete, keep customers happy, and adapt to change. It can also send a ripple effect through your team and cause others to question their overall commitment.

Some job seekers believe that technology has made the interview process more efficient, but most feel that it causes frustration, lacks transparency, is less personal, and doesn’t provide the essential feedback they seek.2 They fare much better when online assessments and automation bring them closer to a personal interviewer than when that technology removes the humanity from the experience. Job seekers benefit from technologies that help them find jobs but require human interaction to make the right employment decision. Whom you work with is just as important as, if not more so than, where you work or what you do.

Because relationships are the cornerstone to a healthy workplace, shouldn’t we put more emphasis on personality when recruiting new employees? It’s challenging to work with someone we don’t like, but it’s exciting to work with someone who has a great personality that meshes well with our own. Hard skills are important, but they can be learned on the job. It’s the soft, intangible skills that are so valuable to creating a team that thrives. They’re also the ones that technology has a difficult time assessing.

As companies experiment with using machines, predictive algorithms, bots, and artificial intelligence to do their recruiting, we need to take a step back and really think about our objective. Recruiting, at its core, should be focused on matching the right talent with the right job and team. As we continue to invest more in machines, we lose track of the actual connections that make for good hires and work friendships. Companies are using machines to eliminate bias, assess human qualities like personality, scrub résumés to identify and analyze word choices, and scrub social media posts to review gestures and emotions. Although this might help narrow down hundreds or even thousands of applicants, at the end of the day only a human should be making hiring decisions, and we can’t rely on these tools to make those decisions for us. In our Virgin Pulse study, 93 percent of people agreed with that thought.7 But what worries me is the remaining 7 percent—and my suspicion that humans are gradually being removed from the hiring process by a growing number of tech- based options.8

To start with, using technology to interview is rife with complications. For example, candidates must have a good Internet connection, which, shockingly, isn’t always guaranteed. I once lost reception during a job interview and immediately got rejected for the position even though I was qualified. Poor connectivity can also cause delays, which can make candidates seem less competent or give rise to misunderstandings. (How many times have you been watching the news and wondered why a reporter in another country is goofily nodding and not responding to a question posed by the US‑based anchor?) Few candidates will have their home set up with the lighting, sound, backgrounds, and makeup artists that are optimal for the perfect interview. And let’s not forget about the introverted candidates and others who are camera shy and might not perform as well in a video as they would in person. All in all, while using tech might be easier, it’s simply not a pleasant way to be recruited, and it’s a horrible way to make a final decision about a candidate.

A perfect technological connection is no guarantee, either. Sam Worobec, director of training at Chipotle Mexican Grill, explained to me why he’ll never use video for another candidate interview. “I hired someone that was a rock-star on camera. He gave all of the right answers, had a great personality, and had the demo reel to show how talented he was. During the face‑to‑face interview, we breezed through the process, and the whole team fell in love with the guy. Two weeks later I let him go,” says Sam. “He was completely self-serving and arrogant. He was extremely charismatic, but he was a cancer to the team.” His advice? “Digging in during a face‑to‑face interview is the only way to really get to know if someone will be a great fit for your team. The video interview is just a weeding process.”

Mike Schneller, associate director of talent acquisition for Biogen, agrees with Sam. “Throughout the course of an in‑person interview, you are given the opportunity to understand the person in front of you for who they truly are; there is no technology for them to hide behind, no cell phones, no video conferencing, no email. It is just you and the candidate, discussing what could potentially be a life-altering decision for the both of you.” Mike believes that you can make the wrong hiring decision when technology is present, because people have a false sense of confidence, which can keep you from seeing what you really need to see: their honesty. “Human‑to‑human interaction is the only honest connection we have left during the interview process; let’s not overlook the value of a handshake,” he told me.

It’s also important to keep in mind that job interviews are a two-way street. Sure, the candidates need to impress you. But you have to impress them as well. When you have in‑person interviews, you’re giving them an important opportunity to meet you, observe the office environment, get a taste of the corporate culture, and get to know some of their prospective teammates.

Excerpted from Back to HumanHow Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation by Dan Schawbel. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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